Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

10 Muscle Groups Every Volleyball Player Must Stretch

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Spring 2009 issue

As the head athletic trainer for the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team at Alpinetgheep.com, my primary responsibility is to ensure that the athletes maintain their health and flexibility for optimal performance. Tight muscles can hinder performance and increase the risk of injury, while improved flexibility can help mitigate these issues.

In this article, we will focus on static stretching, which is effective for increasing the elasticity of tight muscles. However, it’s crucial to perform static stretching after a proper warm-up for maximum benefit.

The Importance of Stretching

Stretching should be incorporated into each training session. Ideally, two bouts of static stretching are recommended:

Pre-Activity Stretching

The first bout should last no longer than five minutes and should be performed after a dynamic warm-up. This warm-up can include activities like jogging, side shuffling, skipping, backwards running, plyometrics, agility drills, ladder drills, and more. During this stretch, it’s essential to focus on the areas that need the most attention rather than attempting to stretch every possible muscle group.

Post-Activity Stretching

The second bout of stretching should be done immediately after the volleyball activity. The athletes on the men’s national team dedicate approximately 10 minutes to stretch all the pertinent muscle groups, including the hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, glutes, quads, adductors/groin, abdomen, low back, and shoulders. Additional focus is given to individual problematic areas after each practice and match.

Stretching the 10 Major Muscle Groups

To ensure volleyball players stretch the crucial muscle groups properly, the following list provides instructions on stretching each group:

Hip Flexors

Volleyball defensive positions often require players to be bent over at the hips, which can lead to tight hip flexors. Restricted range of motion in the hip flexors can limit court coverage and potentially cause low back pain.

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To stretch the hip flexors, perform a lunge forward with your left leg. You’ll feel a stretch in the front part of your right hip. Reach your right arm straight up in the air to target a different area. Repeat the stretch on both sides.

Quads

The most common overuse injury in volleyball athletes is patellar tendonitis, also known as “jumper’s knee.” The act of jumping from a crouched position puts stress on the quadriceps and knees.

To stretch the quads, lie on your side and pull your heel toward your glutes. You can also lie on your stomach and pull your heel towards your glutes.

Hamstrings

The hamstrings work alongside the quads, playing a vital role in stabilization, power production, jumping, landing, and lateral movements.

To stretch the hamstrings, stand with your right leg forward, keeping your right knee straight and slightly bending your left knee. Move your chest closer to your thigh and pull your toes upward. To target the high hamstring area, bend your left knee further and bring your chest closer to your thigh.

Calves

Due to the constant side-to-side movement and squatting position in volleyball, the calf muscles can become tight.

To stretch the calves, you can push against a stable object, hang your heel off a stair or bleachers, or push back with a straight knee while both hands and feet are on the ground.

Glutes

The gluteal muscles can also become tight from the frequent side-to-side movement and squatting position in volleyball.

To stretch the glutes, sit in a seated position and cross your right knee over your left. Then pull your right leg towards your chest. You can also cross your left leg over your right and pull your left leg towards your chest.

Groin/Adductors

The adductors play a significant role in stabilizing the hip joint and pulling the legs together. However, they are prone to injury if not warmed up and flexible.

To stretch the adductors, you can sit with the soles of your feet together (the butterfly position) and press your knees to the floor. Another option is to perform a side lunge in a standing position, ensuring you stretch both sides. Sitting on the floor and spreading your legs wide while reaching your fingertips towards your toes is another effective stretch.

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Abdomen

The abdominal muscles contribute to core stability and play a crucial role in controlling movements while performing jumps and landings.

To stretch the abdomen, you can perform the lunge and reach position used to stretch the hip flexors. Alternatively, lying on your stomach, pressing your hips into the floor, and arching backward can provide a stretch.

Low Back

Back injuries are prevalent among volleyball players, particularly at the elite level. The repetitive and excessive loading of the spine during the sport increases the risk of back injuries.

To stretch the low back, lie on your back and bring your left leg across your body. Hold your left leg down with your right hand and let your left arm rotate in the opposite direction. Another effective stretch is the “cat and dog” stretch, starting on hands and knees and rotating the pelvis forward and backward. The “prayer position” can also be utilized, starting on hands and knees, then sitting back on your heels and moving both arms to the right and left.

Posterior Shoulder

The repetitive overhead movement in volleyball can stress the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, leading to overuse injuries.

To stretch the posterior shoulder, lie on your left side and extend your left arm in front of you. Bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle, palm facing the ceiling. With your right arm, push your left arm down until you feel a gentle stretch. Repeat on both sides. You can also extend your arm underneath your body or use the net or a standard as a post.

Anterior Shoulder and Chest

Tight chest muscles can contribute to various shoulder injuries.

To stretch the anterior shoulder and chest, lie on your stomach and extend your left arm out to the side. Rotate your upper body to the right, feeling the stretch in the front of your left shoulder. This stretch can also be performed while standing, using a net or a standard as a post.

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Remember, it’s crucial not to perform any stretches that cause pain. While stretching may be uncomfortable for muscles that are not yet flexible, it should not cause any other type of pain. Prioritize stretching as part of your routine to prevent injuries and enhance your performance.

About the Author: Aaron Brock (MS, ATC, PES, CES) is the Director of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Training for USA Volleyball’s Men’s National Team.

FAQs

Q: Why is stretching important for volleyball players?

A: Stretching is essential for volleyball players because it increases flexibility, improves performance, and reduces the risk of injuries. Tight muscles can limit range of motion, affect court coverage, and lead to pain, while flexibility helps athletes move more effectively.

Q: What are the most critical muscle groups to stretch for volleyball players?

A: Some of the most important muscle groups to stretch for volleyball players include the hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, groin/adductors, abdomen, low back, and shoulders. Proper stretching of these muscle groups helps maintain balance, stability, and optimal performance on the court.

Q: When should volleyball players perform stretching exercises?

A: It is recommended to perform stretching exercises both before and after volleyball activity. Pre-activity stretching helps prepare the muscles for physical exertion and reduces the risk of injury. Post-activity stretching aids in muscle recovery, reduces muscle soreness, and improves flexibility.

Summary

Stretching plays a vital role in the success of volleyball players. By focusing on the ten major muscle groups, including the hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, groin/adductors, abdomen, low back, and shoulders, athletes can enhance their performance and reduce the risk of injuries.

Remember to prioritize stretching as part of your training regimen, ensuring proper warm-up and cool-down periods. By maintaining flexibility, volleyball players can optimize their movements, cover more ground on the court, and enjoy a healthier and more successful playing experience. To learn more about optimizing your volleyball training, visit Alpinetgheep.com today.